Some conference papers, articles, etc.
"Dignity as Self-Regard: Reflections on Toni Morrison and Law," Contemporary Political Theory (2020)
Excerpt: Morrison’s passing is a loss for women around the world who, touched by her words, felt a little bit less alone. Yet we are not left without inspiration: her essays and novels remain as a potential gathering point for imagined communities of struggle. My goal in these reflections is to examine aspects of Morrison’s writings that support women’s fragile efforts to retain a sense of their humanity and dignity in the face of dehumanizing laws. Beginning with the novel Beloved ( 2004) and moving through a selection of her essays on American literature and law, I suggest that Morrison consciously replaced mainstream conceptions of dignity in Western political thought (based on mutual respect among subjects presumed to be white and male) with a conception of ‘self-regard’ that centers the black female subject as the source of her own worth. This conception of dignity as self-regard pushes critical legal theory to respond more adequately to the perspectives of marginalized women, while also helping to inform the political analysis of dignitarian ideals that guide the activism of women around the world.
"The Progress of Law: Aeschylus’s Oresteia in Feminist and Critical Theory," Political Theory 48:2 (2020).
Abstract: The Oresteia is conventionally read as an account of progress from the age of private vendetta to the public order of legal justice. According to G.W.F. Hegel, an influential proponent of this view, the establishment of a court in Athens was the first step in the progressive universalization of law. For feminists and Frankfurt School theorists, in contrast, the Oresteia offers an account of the origins of patriarchy and class domination by legal means. This article examines the two competing interpretations of Aeschylus’s trilogy, arguing that they are not mutually exclusive. Rather than rejecting Hegel’s progressive thesis altogether, the critical theorists discussed here focus on the underside of progress. They make two claims that are explicated and defended in this article: first, that law follows a dialectical progression wherein measures to advance justice simultaneously intensify domination; second, that the dialectic of progress arises from the legal form itself—its presumed universality.
"Toward a Tragic Conception of Law," Cornell Political Theory Workshop, September 2019.
“Setbacks and Reversals: Critical Theory, Feminism and the Inversion of Progress.” Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, August 2017.
“Ethical Responsibility before the Law: Tragedy, Democracy, and the Foreigner.” Conference on The Politics of Difference and the Threshold of Law, Albany Law School. April 2017.
“Dignity as Non-Discrimination: Existential Protests and Legal Claim-Making for Reproductive Rights,” Philosophy & Social Criticism 43: 1 (2017).
Abstract: Analysing two reproductive rights claims brought before the High Court of Namibia and the European Court of Human Rights, this article argues that human dignity is not reducible to a recognized warrant (a right) to demand a particular set of goods, services, or treatments. Rather, dignity in the contexts in which women experience sterilization abuse would be better characterized as an existential protest against degradation, a protest that takes concrete form in legal demands for equal citizenship. Equality is conceived here as necessitating the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in public and private life. The dignity as non-discrimination framework developed in the article thus integrates two of the leading interpretations of dignity in contemporary political philosophy – the existentialist approach that attends to the inward cry against degradation and the view of dignity as the equal, public status of democratic citizenship.
“Tragedy and Democracy: The Fate of Liberal Democratic Values in a Violent World,” in Nancy S. Love and Mark Mattern, eds, Doing Democracy: Activist Art and Cultural Politics (State University of New York Press, 2013).
“‘Mindful of the Sacrifices Borne by our Ancestors’: Terror, Historical Consciousness, and the Slave Sublime,” New Political Science 32:4 (Dec 2010)
Abstract: This article contends that the arts have a crucial part to play in calling attention to the decline ofAmerica’s democratic traditions,while simultaneously enabling the recollection of what remains of ideals of liberty and justice in the wake of American empire. Following Cornel West, the author argues that the tragicomic hope that characterizes the musical and artistic heritage of blues people offers an incomparable resource for political renewal. Specifically, representations of moral resistance against racial terror can reconfigure our understanding of the relationship between liberty and justice, on the one hand, and the need for security in a dangerous world. The author considers the contributions of blues women of the 1920s and 1930s, and then traces the ethos of the blues through the creative writing of Toni Morrison, whose characters represent a commitment to liberty even in the most devastating circumstances.